EUSD Farm Lab is the First in the US to Grow Their Own (Certified Organic) School Lunch
Mim Michelove, Director of Farm Lab, Encinitas Union School District, September 6, 2016
EUSD Farm Lab celebrates being the first organically certified school district in the country - growing for its school lunch program on district-owned land!
EUSD Farm Lab is an Encinitas Union School District satellite school, located in on a 10-acre site that houses an innovative new campus, a community garden and farm fields where food is locally grown for their school lunch program. During a full-day visit, students from each of the nine district schools receive experiential lessons on the DREAMS campus that demonstrate Design, Research, Engineering, Art, Math and Science with a focus on nutrition and the environment. Having the DREAMS campus adjacent to the organic farm, where school lunch grows, makes it easy to build excitement about what is on the menu and helps students make meaningful connections between their actions, their health, and the health of the planet. Farm Lab Director, Mim Michelove, tells us that “growing from the Slow Food USA Ark of Taste catalogue is a great way to teach kids about the importance of biodiversity in the agricultural landscape. The humble act of saving an heirloom seed from extinction, can become one of cultural and biological preservation.”
Thanks to a contract with neighboring farmers at Coastal Roots Farm, EUSD Farm Lab has been able to consistently grow lettuce, celery, snap peas, watermelon, cucumbers and tomatoes for school salad bars. Last year, over 200 heads of Romaine lettuce were harvested every week. Due to the popularity of the fresh lettuce, this year’s production will be increased to 300 heads of lettuce per week! Over the summer, more than 3,000 pounds of tomatoes and peppers were harvested, roasted, and frozen as sauce for the scratch pizza for the current school year. Another 3,000 pounds of heirloom watermelon varieties were grown, offering a “welcome back to school” rainbow on all of the school salad bars.
The process of becoming certified organic began after the suggestion was made by a colleague from Jimbo’s Naturally, a family-owned health food chain in San Diego that supports several local nonprofits and school garden programs. “Selling our excess produce to Jimbo’s is one way to help financially sustain the programing at Farm Lab. It also gives the store and the school district a partnering opportunity through which we can share some heirloom varieties with the larger community, and build enthusiasm to try new foods at school as well as on the family table. But, most importantly, being certified organic makes it possible for EUSD to serve our children the healthiest possible food at school lunch.”